Deep-rooted perceptions of inadequacy, hard-heartedness, subconscious emotional needs for Mother/Father/personal identity - the Western expressions of Mara's host - can all savage the heart's resolve.
|In practising contemplation, it doesn't take long to find out about the ground. Meditation may sound ethereal - and life in monasteries seem quaint and padded out with archaic trappings - but the experience within these forms is often one of being quite rudely thrown onto the hard surface of the mind's resistances and unresolved need. Rather than take issue with them (how?) we are encouraged to define them through the many references of Buddha-Dhamma; to map out the ground of existence in terms of the four Foundations of Mindfulness, the five khandha, the Four Noble Truths and so on. That, rather than any other effort, is the heart of the practice. But even that act of marking out the ground is subject to the will and capacity to carry it out. Deep-rooted perceptions of inadequacy, hard-heartedness, subconscious emotional needs for Mother/Father/personal identity - the Western expressions of Mara's host - can all savage the heart's resolve. Sometimes you even get caught by the suspicion that the whole spiritual path is yet another delusion, another fantasy contrived for the gratification or defence of the ego.|
Actually the host of Mara points to a need to go deeper, to penetrate the fragmentary drives that create the self-image and replace them with gestures that are more holistic and sacred. When you enter the soft heart of the mind, you need spiritual references, not psychological techniques, to find a ground that doesn't give way beneath you. This, to a contemplative, is what religious form is for.
Hence spiritual life has always valued symbol and archetype, and a full commitment to enact them in terms of body, speech and mind. The cluster of Pali words that define Buddhist monastic life give some clues as to the form of those gestures: Puja - the daily offering of oneself, and praise (not acquisition) of the timeless truth; Uposatha - the 'drawing close' to the Sublime through precepts and meditation; Pabbajja - the 'Going Forth' from the aims and values of the material world, and a dying to that, so that with Upasampada one is 'raised up', resurrected to be 'born of the Dhamma'.
These create the walls of the temple wherein one discerns the Buddha-image, at first very dimly-lit and neglected, on a makeshift shrine. And there, slowly, the realisation and the gladness dawns. We are indeed fortunate to touch, even briefly, the true and selfless ground of being.
Living according to a tradition, connected to a Way that has thousands of observances - for laity and monastics alike - provides many occasions to enact selflessness in terms of renunciation and in terms of relationship to community. Both of these finally have to be carried out for no other purpose than devotion to Truth, both have their meaning - respectively inducing the still point of no-thing and the vast space of totality - and both are expressions of Ultimate Truth. But maybe at this time of the fragmentation of nations, societies and families, our approach has to be one of communion, of creating the temple that contains all beings. It could be in a crowded hall for a Kathina ceremony, in a house with a family - or wherever the mind of sharing pitches its tent.
Luang Por Chah's Cremation
Travelling to Thailand for the Ceremony